San Antonio Botanical Garden

Traditional American Lawn

The concept of what is thought of today as the traditional American Lawn was first introduced to the U.S. in the later half of the 1700’s from ideas developed by the French and English landscapers of the time.

Until the introduction of the American suburb in the late 1800’s, the lawn remained the bastion of the wealthy and privileged class.

In the Late 1800’s and early 1900’s the U.S Department of Agriculture, the U.S. Golf Association and the Garden Clubs of America all worked together to develop grass species not native to the U.S. into lawn grass and promote an aesthetic that revolved around a close cropped, weed free lawn as a reflection of a middle class value system.

Before the invention of the lawnmower, rubber hose and sprinkler, pesticides, herbicides and commercial fertilizers and the development of appropriate lawn grasses, lawns as we know them today were impossible.

Today, many home landscapes are moving away from the turf predominant landscapes of the last century to more varied, maintenance and environmentally friendly landscapes that look farther back into history as they move into the future. While turf can still have a place in the landscape, its dominance is reduced in favor of patios and perennial flower beds, herb gardens, and groundcovers. When turf is selected it should be selected for drought tolerant capabilities.

Elements of a Traditional American Lawn:

  • Predominance of turf – usually 80% to 95% and in San Antonio, usually St. Augustine grass.
  • One large shade tree
  • Hedge of foundation shrubs
  • Annual plants such as pansies for color

Basic Maintenance Requirements:

  • Mow and edge weekly during the growing season (April- October)
  • Fertilize up to twice a year
  • Replace annuals 2 to 4 times a year
  • Insecticides, fungicides and herbicides as needed

Plants for a Traditional Landscape in San Antonio:

  • Trees – Live Oak, Ash, Cedar Elm, Crepe Myrtle, Bartlett Pear
  • Shrubs – Ligustrum, Boxwood, Red Tipped Photinia, Pittisporum, Viburnum
  • Annuals - Petunias, Pansies, Kale
  • Grass – St. Augustine

Irrigation Requirements:

  • Weekly irrigation during the growing season if St. Augustine is planted in shallow soils (less than 6 inches) in full sun.
  • In shady yards with deep soils (over 6 inches) St. Augustine needs little additional irrigation once grass is established

Other Input Requirements:

  • Soil - St Augustine should only be considered in locations with deep existing soils and shade. Area with little soil and/or in full sun should have a more appropriate grass species or other plant material more appropriate to the existing conditions.
  • Mulch - hrub beds and trees can be mulched with organic mulch such as shredded brush (up to 6”).
  • Pesticides and Fertilizers – Many plant species typically found in a traditional lawn setting can be prone to pests or disease. You should always identify the pest or disease in your lawn before choosing the appropriate herbicide, fungicide or insecticide. Contact your Cooperative Extension Service Agent for help. Fertilizers may be needed once or twice a year for optimal performance